News Commentary – June 23, 2012
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are paying salaries to rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Arab diplomat told Reuters on Saturday.
“The payment has been going on for months and the agreement was made on April 2 by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with logistical organization from Turkey where some Free Syrian Army factions are based,” said the diplomat, who requested anonymity.
“The point of this is to encourage as many factions of the Syrian army to defect and to organize the FSA, control it and prevent any extremist organizations from joining it”, the source told Reuters.
The funding has gone hand-in-hand with weapons paid for by the Gulf States and provided by the United States.
In addition to allowing a command centre to be set up, from where supply lines are being coordinated with rebel leaders inside Syria, Turkey also suffered the embarrassment of having one of its military aircraft shot down in Syrian airspace Friday.
Although Turkey has publicly vowed to take action over the incident, there has been a notable lack of bellicose rhetoric in its wake.
Some observers have suggested that Ankara wants to avoid igniting tensions, prematurely. Preferring instead to adopt a low-key approach in the steady yet covert build up to confrontation with Syria.
The funds from the Gulf states together with the influx of arms and ammunition have helped reinvigorate the rebellion against the Assad regime, which only a few weeks ago seemed on the point of collapse.
The payment of salaries to Syrian rebel forces was also discussed during Senator Joe Lieberman’s recent visit to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
According to a spokesperson for the Senator:
“Senator Lieberman has called for the US to provide robust and comprehensive support to the armed Syrian opposition, in co-ordination with our partners in the Middle East and Europe. He has specifically called for the US to work with our partners to provide the armed Syrian opposition with weapons, training, tactical intelligence, secure communications and other forms of support to change the military balance of power inside Syria.
“Senator Lieberman also supports the idea of ensuring that the armed opposition fighters receive regular and sufficient pay, although he does not believe it is necessary for the United States to provide this funding itself directly.”